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North Korea keeping quiet over humanitarian offer

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul,<strong></strong> right, speaks with Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, left, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, in Seoul, Monday. Both sides exchanged their views on the government's plan to provide humanitarian food aid to North Korea. Yonhap
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, right, speaks with Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, left, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, in Seoul, Monday. Both sides exchanged their views on the government's plan to provide humanitarian food aid to North Korea. Yonhap

By Lee Min-hyung

North Korea is showing no signs of welcoming South Korea's provision of $8 million (9.54 billion won) worth of humanitarian food aid to millions of its starving citizens. The lack of a response further complicates the nuclear situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The thinking in Seoul is that the aid package will possibly induce the North to return to negotiations. President Moon Jae-in also recently said the aid will help resolve the ongoing deadlock in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang to some extent.

But there were no signs that the North was changing its stance toward the South when the plan was announced Friday.

On Monday, the North's propaganda media outlets continued to step up criticism of Seoul for "depending on outside forces" in handling inter-Korean affairs.

"It is very stupid for Seoul to beg a foreign power to help resolve inter-Korean affairs," the propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said, describing Seoul's alliance with Washington as a move to "tie a noose around its own neck."

Following the failure of the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, inter-Korean relations began to deteriorate. The North has particularly taken issue with the South's security alliance with the U.S., urging Seoul to stop siding with Washington and handle inter-Korean issues in a more independent manner.

"The South Korean authorities should take a position to sincerely fulfill inter-Korean agreements and stop carrying out policies dependent on foreign powers, which goes against the demands and interests of the Korean people," it said.

The denouncement came a day after the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper expressed a cautious view on the humanitarian aid offer from the South.

"Aid has been a means of plunder from imperialists," it said. The humanitarian support from the South and international society will be made in a similar spirit, with an ultimate view to governing the North, the newspaper said.

This has been interpreted as a show of determination by the North reaffirming its unwillingness to make concessions in the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

Last week, the Ministry of Unification decided to push for the humanitarian aid through international relief bodies, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund.

This was not the first provision of aid. In September 2017, the government planned to send humanitarian assistance, but did not do so amid skepticism from the international community due to the North's missile tests.

To push the plan forward again in a more organized way, the unification ministry is reviewing the project by holding a series of meetings with public and private organizations here.

The latest came Monday afternoon when Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul exchanged views with Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea.

The U.S., for its part, also expressed a voice of optimism over the South's proposed humanitarian aid plans for the North, Moon said last week in a meeting with David Beasley, executive director of the WFP.



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